Archive for the ‘Solving Eating Issues’ Category
“It was a bad week,” Sherry told me. “I didn’t do well with my food.” That was the first thing she said when we started our session, so I asked her what did go well before we talked more about what didn’t.
She told me about all the times when she was able to stop eating before getting full, how she had made a batch of brownies for her kids and realized she wasn’t interested in having any herself, and how she had gone out to dinner with her husband and made healthy choices without overeating. She had also had friends over for dinner and had prepared healthier foods which was a first, and she didn’t overeat or over drink.
As she shared all this with me, she was seeing how good a week she really did have. She was amazed by how many things she had done that felt really good; and she said “wow, I didn’t see all these things until now.”
That was because she was focused on the one thing that hadn’t gone so well; the one night when she overate and didn’t feel in control. That clouded her thinking about the other thirty-one times she had eaten a meal or snack the past week without overeating or making unhealthy choices. It also left her feeling like she’d failed, which had the potential to derail her efforts moving forward. After we talked, Sherry felt successful and motivated to have another good week.
You can do the same for yourself with these 4 steps:
1. Review your past week for all the times you made healthy choices.
Notice how often you ate just to the point of satisfaction and stopped before getting full, had breakfast, didn’t get too hungry, ate balanced meals and snacks, had treats in moderation, exercised or was active, got enough sleep, drank enough water, and took care of yourself in other ways.
Like Sherry, you will probably be amazed by how many healthy and positive things you actually did for yourself and how well the week really did go. Allow yourself to feel good about and to shift your perspective about your accomplishments.
2. Be curious about what didn’t go so well, instead of beating yourself up.
Also notice when you overate, ate lots of unhealthy foods, ate when you weren’t even hungry, skipped a workout or opportunity to be active, drank too much alcohol or soda, or didn’t get the sleep or water you needed. Do this with interest and curiosity. There was a good reason for this.
Think back to what was going on that day. What were you thinking when one of these behaviors occurred. That will give you clues as to what was driving that decision or choice. Maybe at the time, you were dealing with a lot of emotions or had totally run out of time. Maybe you were not paying attention and let things happen. Maybe you didn’t plan ahead and weren’t prepared, so you opted for a less healthy choice. None of these make you bad. These are opportunities to see what gets in the way of what would leave you feeling better physically and about yourself.
If you beat yourself up, you won’t see what really happened. You will only focus on how bad you are, and that won’t improve your behavior. Instead that will lower your confidence and kill your motivation.
3. Learn from that situation, so you are more confident and in control next time.
With curiosity, you can look back and see what you would have done differently, what you really needed or how you might have prepared in advance.
How could you have addressed your emotions instead of turning to food? How could you have been more conscious, so you were able to be in charge of your choices? How could you have planned ahead to have time or have food? Were your goals realistic for this week or had you really thought about it, would you have expected yourself to fit in so many days of exercise?
By asking yourself these types of questions, you can see that any time you aren’t as successful as you would like to be, these are opportunities to understand why and to consider what you might have done differently either at the time or leading up to the decision. Maybe you would have set more realistic exercise goals. Maybe if you had done your meal planning and shopping over the weekend, you would have had healthy food in the refrigerator instead of munching on pretzels and ice cream for dinner. Maybe, knowing it would be a difficult week, if you had gotten some healthy to-go food or stocked up the freezer with healthy frozen entrees, you would have had enough healthy food to eat during the week. Or maybe when you found yourself upset, if you had called a friend, gone for a walk or gotten your journal out, you wouldn’t have pigged out all night and ended up feeling sick.
With these insights, you can develop strategies for next time. And there is always a next time.
4. Let your successes and new insights motivate you to stay on track.
Feeling successful is the key to staying motivated. When you feel good about yourself and can see all that is going well to be healthier, more fit and reach your goals, you will want to do even more. No matter how small those successes are, they build your confidence and enthusiasm for staying on track.
Having strategies to support you in being successful is also motivating. It gives you direction and hope that you really can continually make healthy choices and stay on track. As you implement these strategies, you can learn more about what works best for you. These strategies aren’t new rules; they are new ideas to experiment with. The goal isn’t to be good. The goal is to discover what works to support your health and fitness, to stay motivated and on track, and to feel really good each day.
The holidays are coming. The holidays are coming! Soon you will be surrounded by lots of sweets, cookies and navigating holiday party foods and drinks. Are you prepared with a game plan to keep yourself on track without feeling deprived? Now is the time to put your strategies together.
You don’t have to wait until after you’ve overindulged on candy, eaten one too many cookies or gotten stuffed on appetizers. You already have hindsight from previous years, and you probably can guess when and what will happen again this year.
This is just what my client Jean realized when we started talking about Thanksgiving at her son’s. She was afraid of overeating as she usually does, and she could picture all the times and ways that was going to probably happen again. She and her husband always drove 4 hours south on Wednesday, stopping at the same great deli where they picked up sandwiches for lunch and lots of treats they would bring as their contribution before the big meal. Yet more often than not, they didn’t eat much of the sandwiches and would dig into the bags of treats before arriving. The next day they would arrive at their son’s around noon hungry and ready to nibble on the appetizers and have their first drinks of the day. By the time they headed out for the big meal at the club, served buffet style, she was usually starting to feel full. Then she’d eat a big meal and stuff down several desserts. The next day, they would have a really big breakfast to tie them over on the long ride home, and they would stop again at the deli for treats to enjoy on the way back.
Like Jean, you can probably describe what your Thanksgiving holiday traditions around food will be like, just as you can see what will happen this coming weekend on Halloween or what you usually do at a party or around a bowl of candy set out for anyone to eat. That gives you a great advantage, because this enables you to think about what you would do differently that would leave you feeling better and still feel like you got to enjoy the festivities. So pick a time that is coming up, and remember how you felt last time when you over did it. What would work better for you?
Here are some ideas to consider:
- Eat a healthy balanced breakfast the day of a big meal, so you don’t arrive ravenous and overeat because you are so hungry.
- Eat a healthy balanced snack before going to an event, so you aren’t showing up hungry.
- When faced with lots of appetizers, decide in advance how many you will have and be picky about which ones you really want. You may decide to just have 3-4.
- When you know you are susceptible to having a drink too many, have a glass of sparkling water after your first drink and then decide if you really want a second drink.
- At a buffet, first look at everything to see which things you know you really want and be picky. Use a smaller plate, and focus on getting a mix of protein, vegetables and some other complex carbohydrates.
- Have salad first if that is an option at a buffet.
- Save room for dessert, and then choose the desserts that are your favorite. Have very small pieces and really enjoy them.
- Allow yourself to have 1-2 pieces of candy a day if you really like it and it is calling your name from the candy dish someone put out near your office. This can replace dessert on those days.
- Buy Halloween candy to give out to kids you don’t like eating yourself.
- Pick out the best Halloween candy and eat a few pieces with your meals instead of having just candy by itself. That will minimize blood sugar highs and lows and reduce cravings. Give yourself a few days to have your favorite candy and then throw the rest out.
- Remember that Halloween candy can be gotten anytime. You don’t have to eat it all now just because it is Halloween.
Which of these sound like they will work well for you? Really think about the situation you will probably be in and what would feel best to you before, during and after. Then add in some other ideas and decide ahead of time which approach you want to take. As Jean discovered by creating her own strategies with me, she got to enjoy her Thanksgiving rituals in a way that left her feeling better physically and really good about herself. She was thrilled to discover she could stay in control and still eat the foods she wanted.
I learned something that really surprised me when I discovered what it really took to successfully stick with healthier eating and regular exercise. It is doing what feels good, rather than striving to be good. It has become one of my tried and true secrets to long-term success that I have seen work over and over again with my clients.
The Struggle to Be Good Enough
When you focus on being good on a diet or in doing your prescribed exercise, you are rarely able to be good enough often enough to feel successful. Instead you end up feeling badly about yourself when you fail to eat the right thing or fit in all your exercise, and then you probably question your ability to be successful. This mindset leads to the inevitable conclusion that you can’t do it right and can’t stick with your program. At that point you give up, and it may be months or years before you try a healthier diet, an exercise program or whatever it was you were trying to improve about yourself. How many times has this happened to you?
One of my clients, Clare, used to check in each week by saying, “I wasn’t good this week, I only exercised three times”, “I was really bad last week, I overate at least twice”, “I tried to be good, but I ended up being bad”, “I’m so bad, I don’t know if I can be good”, and “I failed at doing what I know I should, and I don’t think I can do this”.
Seeing Success Differently
And yet, when we talked further, in nearly every case there was a lot she had done that was successful. She had exercised those three times, she had stopped eating before getting full more than ten times, and she was making great progress. She was surprised to hear that she wasn’t doing as badly as she assumed. She discovered that each time she had been “bad”; they were the result of situations she couldn’t easily control without a better game plan. Instead of being bad, she had done well in light of what she was dealing with, and she could create strategies for the future by having the hindsight.
We as a society are conditioned to see what didn’t go well, instead of what did. We see our failings and ignore our successes, as if having a perfect score or grade is all that matters. But when it comes to eating, exercise and self-care, you don’t need a perfect score. Good is good enough. Since you don’t have to be perfect, you can instead focus on all your successes, and that is a great feeling and a powerful motivator to continue making progress.
What Clare and all my clients have learned is that being successful is actually about honoring yourself. It has nothing to do with the judgment of being good or bad. When you can’t exercise as you planned, you end up feeling less energized. When you overeat, you don’t feel as well afterwards. When you drink too much, you lose control of your choices and don’t feel well the next day. When you are out of control around food, you don’t feel good about yourself. The repercussions of not doing something healthy affects how you feel and your chance to take good care of yourself, and that is it. The only one to beat you up is you. You weren’t bad; you missed an opportunity to feel and look better.
Focusing on Feeling Good Rather Than Being Good
When you see it that way, you start to focus on ways to feel good. For example, it feels reallygood to eat healthy food that is satisfying and to move enough that you have more energy and want to do even more activity. It feels great to have more confidence in yourself, to be in control around food, and to see your body get stronger and leaner. And it feels absolutely wonderful to become healthy and fit.
To make this shift, you need to know how you actually feel. Most of my clients have no idea how they feel when they get full, eat unhealthy food or push their bodies too hard, because they have never paid attention. Many of my diabetic clients don’t really know how it feels when their blood sugars get low or high, and even fewer clients really know how they feel emotionally. Once they learn how to check in with how they feel, they have an easier time making healthier choices because it feels so much better than being unhealthy and inactive. And the better they feel, the more of that great feeling they want.
So the secret to long-term success is doing what feels good to you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually instead of striving to be good.
When I first met MaryLou, she said her biggest issue was emotional eating. She ate frequently when she wasn’t hungry and felt compelled to eat junk foods when things didn’t go well. That certainly suggests emotional eating, but it could also be the result of other eating issues or subconscious triggers.
Emotional eating is often used as a catchall for any eating that isn’t based on a physical need, such as overeating, eating when you aren’t hungry or eating lots of unhealthy foods. Yet there can be many reasons for these things, and until you have a clear understanding of the real issue you can’t solve it.
The most common reasons that tend to fall under the emotional eating category are
- emotional repression,
- emotional deprivation (or restricted rebellion),
- perceived pressure and
- unconscious beliefs.
MaryLou was taught at an early age that junk food was bad and that she could only have it for special occasions, like when she had a good report card or on her birthday. On those days, she could have anything she wanted and as much as she wanted. She remembers those events vividly, because she gotto indulge in lots of chips, candy, cake and ice cream, and then she often got sick. But it was always worth it to her. Unconsciously, she believed that going on a binge as a reward for doing something well or on special holidays was her right and that feeling terrible afterwards was to be expected. Of course, as an adult, she got to decide what was a special occasion or worthy of a reward, and instead of a few times a year she overindulged a few times a week.
This is a form of eating driven more by a belief than an emotion, although it can trigger emotions as I will describe with restricted rebellion. Other unconscious beliefs that drive food behaviors include: eating everything on your plate, not wasting food, getting your money’s worth, leftovers are bad, healthy food is too expensive, healthy food doesn’t taste good, and many more. You can probably add a few of your own to this list.
MaryLou’s belief about junk food created a dynamic that led to another type of eating, where she felt emotionally deprived on the days she wasn’t being rewarded or celebrating. As she enforced the rule that she couldn’t have the food she craved except under certain conditions, another part of her rebelled against this rule. That part of her wanted the cookies, chips and chocolate all the time, because it wasn’t sure when the next reward was going to be and felt deprived and restricted by her strict belief. So when she finally did give herself permission to have these foods, she went on a greater binge to make up for feeling deprived between binges.
This rebellion against being restricted of food or specific foods is one of the most common forms of emotional eating. Whether you feel should be restricted by the beliefs you carry, were recently restricted by a diet, was restricted as a child or anticipate being restricted by an upcoming diet; you have a high likelihood of having an emotional reaction and overeating that food or foods to make up for not getting your needs met – whether you really want or like the food or not. You won’t be able to help yourself.
MaryLou had thought her biggest issue was eating when things didn’t go well, so discovering that she was out of control with food when things went well as a reward had been a huge eye-opener for her. Yet her reward eating had a common relationship to the times she ate to cope with challenging or upsetting situations. In both cases she had a lot of emotions, but she wasn’t acknowledging them. Instead of feeling deserving and celebratory when things went well or feeling angry and frustrated when they didn’t, she turned to food and pushed those feelings down into her body unexpressed. This is classic emotional eating. And then because overeating and eating junk food made her feel badly about herself, she then ate more in an attempt to avoid feeling ashamed for what she was doing. Again, this is typical with emotional eating.
When you repress either positive or negative emotions by turning to food to feel good, you lose the ability to really feel and express your feelings or to get your needs met that are associated with those feelings. In MaryLou’s case, she wanted to feel rewarded for the things she was proud of, and that is a valid feeling and need. But overeating junk food didn’t fill that need. Instead it made her feel worse and unfulfilled. She also had valid emotions when things didn’t go well, but the more she repressed them the bigger those emotions became so she was easily triggered when the littlest of things went wrong. She also hadn’t resolved the situations that upset her, so she felt more and more out of control and more often turning to food.
To MaryLou’s surprise, as she got to observe her eating patterns working with me, was how often she ate to please other people. She had no idea that was happening. There were many times during the week when she met people for coffee, lunch, dinner or went to networking events. Often she ate when she wasn’t hungry or had already become full, because she felt she needed to. If the person she was with wanted to share a pastry or dessert, she felt she had to say yes. If others were still eating, and she was done, she felt she had to eat more so they wouldn’t be uncomfortable that she was not eating. If she was offered an appetizer, she felt she had to have one so the waiter felt appreciated. If she didn’t eat everything on her plate, she worried the chef might think she didn’t like the food. Or if she wanted to order a light salad and others asked whether she wasn’t going to get more, she felt she should get something more substantial. In the end, she almost always overate and ate something she didn’t want.
Yet the people around her probably didn’t even really care what she did or didn’t eat. She was creating her own story about what these people were thinking and then tried to meet what she perceived were everyone’s needs but her own.
Belief- & Emotion-Driven Eating
As you can see, emotional eating is a mix of beliefs and emotions that subconsciously drive eating patterns, and everyone has their own unique set of beliefs, emotions and needs. Because everyone is different, I have only touched the surface as to the many ways these can appear for someone.
The trick is to be able to see what is really driving your own eating choices and behaviors without judgment, and then to change the specific beliefs, feel the specific feelings and get your real needs met. If you simply call everything emotional eating, it will be much harder to detect what is really driving you and how to finally address the exact beliefs, feelings and needs.
Making healthy dishes can be fast, easy and hardly any work to prepare, and that is how I manage to fit healthy meals into my daily lifestyle. It can take just five-ten minutes to prepare a meal using healthy whole foods.
So I invited them all to my home for a cooking demo and a healthy balanced meal. On the menu was four different ways to prepare asparagus, along with two easy ways to have fish and two super simple side dishes (basmati rice and sweet potato). It all started with a wonderful bean spread that took only a few ingredients and 5 minutes to whip up.
Here is what I did for our evening event:
Yummy Bean Spread – Everyone Loved This!
Served with Kashi stone-ground wholegrain crackers as well as Blue Diamond’s nut-thin rice crackers (for those who are gluten intolerant).
1 can Cannellini beans – mashed with a fork (after draining the liquid)
1 Tbsp Olive oil
3 Scallions (or 1 slice red onion) – finely sliced
2 tsp Rosemary – fresh (or sage or thyme)
Salt & pepper
Mix all ingredients together.
Can also add tiny bit of lemon or sherry vinegar.
Can put on top of sliced banquettes – as a cannellini bean crostini.
4 Simple & Easy Ways to Make Asparagus
Rinse asparagus and break off one end to see where the natural break is. Then cut all the other asparagus in the bunch by the same amount. This saves time in having to break each end off.
1. Roasted Asparagus
Line a baking sheet with tin-foil and spray with olive oil from a can. (I used PAM for this)
Lay the bunch of asparagus across the sheet.
Then spray the olive oil again across the asparagus to lightly coat them.
Sprinkle with a mix of salt and thyme. (I used a mortar & pestle to release oil from the thyme)
Broil (or bake at 400 degrees) for about 10 minutes – until starting to shrivel and brown.
2. Steamed Asparagus with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Place the bunch of asparagus into a large frying pan or sauté pan.
Add 1/4 cup of water.
Cover with a lid.
Cook for 3 minutes until the asparagus starts to get a tiny bit soft and the water is gone.
Don’t let it fully cook, or it will quickly get too soft.
Place in a dish and pour balsamic vinaigrette over the asparagus.
(I used Lilly’s balsamic vinaigrette, which you can get at most grocery stores.)
3. Steamed Asparagus with Garlic & Herbs
Same first 5 steps as #2.
Push the asparagus to one side of the pan.
Pour 1 Tbsp of olive oil in the pan where you have created some space.
Add in 1 clove minced garlic (fresh or from a jar)
1 Tbsp minced fresh basil
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
Cook the herbs and garlic in the oil for about a minute or two.
Mix in with the asparagus and remove from heat.
4. Sautéed Asparagus with Onions, Garlic & Herbs
Cut up bunch of asparagus into 1 – 1½ ” pieces.
Heat up frying or sauté pan with 1 Tbsp of olive oil
Sauté the onion and garlic for 1- 2 minutes
Add in the chopped asparagus.
Sprinkle with bit of salt and dried thyme (or any herb you like).
Cook until asparagus gets a bit soft.
Super Simple Sweet Potato Even the Kids will Love
Roasted Sweet Potato “Chips”
Rinse a large sweet potato (or yam) and slice diagonally in ¼” slices.
Line a baking sheet with tin-foil. You can often reuse tin-foil from prior roastings.
Spray with olive oil from a can. (I used PAM for this)
Lay the pieces of sweet potato on the sheet.
Then spray the olive oil again across the slices to lightly coat them.
Sprinkle with a mix of salt and thyme.
Broil (or bake at 400 degrees) for about 10 minutes – until starting to brown on bottom.
You will have to use a spatula to check the bottoms.
A Fish Anyone Can Make
You can broil a lot of different fishes, and for this event I picked up a pre-marinated “cajun” catfish at our local fish store, David’s Fish Market in Salisbury. You can also take a white fish and marinate it yourself.
Line a baking sheet with tin-foil.
Lay the fish pieces on it.
Broil for about 8 minutes – if about ¼-½ ” thick. (5 minutes if thinner)
Turn over and broil for about 4 minutes.
It is done when you can slide your fork all the way through, without any resistance.
This is the same way you can make swordfish. Top with bit of salt, pepper and a seafood rub, and broil for 8 minutes. When you turn it over, you can re-apply the seasonings or not.
How simple was that!
The basmati rice was from a brand called Tilda, which comes in a blue foil bag. You boil 6 cups of water, then add in 1 cup of rice. 10 minutes later, you strain it (pouring the rice and water into a strainer) and then douse with hot water. You get perfect rice that isn’t sticky.
The remaining shrimp dish came from a Williams Sonoma recipe called Shrimp with Wine & Herbs out of their “Food Made Fast: Seafood” cookbook.
Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what else the participants have to say about their cooking demo evening with me, when they add their comments to this blog. And please share your own insights about what works for you. It may be just the spark that helps another person reading this blog.
Have a fit and healthy week,
The past couple of weeks have been particularly challenging for a number of people in the groups. When I asked them to share any success they had despite the difficulties, they each found one they could feel good about.
When you focus on successes, you stop focusing on what you didn’t do, should have done or your perceived failures. Instead you see what did go well, what worked best for you and that you can succeed. This is critical to being able to stay on track.
For many of them in the groups, the one thing they found that really helped them to have some success was their awareness. For example, they stayed aware of when they got full, so even if they were triggered to overeat, they were able to stop before they lost control. They listened when their body started to hurt and took time off without feeling guilty. And they were conscious of their desire to turn to comfort or junk food, and if they did have some, they were able to keep it to a minimum. They shared honestly without beating themselves up and could see that by staying conscious of what was going on and how they were feeling, they didn’t revert to old habits which would have been so easy to do.
There will always be days or weeks when they will struggle with issues in their lives, don’t meet their goals or feel like they’ve gotten off track. It happens to all of us. A month ago I had vertigo for several weeks. Life isn’t predictable or easy to manage. Plans get changed, emotions get stirred up, injuries happen and illnesses will catch you off guard. Or worse, as in the case of one of our contestants, who has been out for weeks from a bad auto accident, you can get derailed for long periods of time.
Instead of judging yourself or getting caught up in the disappointment, what everyone in the groups are discovering is they can learn from these experiences and get right back on track. In fact, these are golden opportunities to create strategies for similar future situations. You can look back and see what might have worked better for you, which would have left you feeling good physically as well as mentally and emotionally. The objective isn’t to look back to see how you could have been better at being good, because that isn’t the issue. It is not about being good or bad. It is about doing what leaves you feeling good and about respecting your body and yourself.
Here are some strategies that resulted from our discussions:
- If you have worked your way up to walking for 25 minutes – or whatever amount you can now do, avoid taking a much longer walk even if a friend invites you to walk the length of our new rail trail or any other great walk in the area. Know your limits and speak up, letting that person know you’d love to walk but that after x number of minutes you’ll have to turn around.
- Remind yourself that 10 minutes, one mile or one loop around the block is enough exercise, if that is all you think you feel up for. It is better than nothing, and who knows, you may find you want to do more once you get started.
- If you begin to notice some aches or pain in your feet or legs, don’t push through it or pretend it isn’t there and continue with your goals for the week. Instead to take it as a warning signal that you may need to back off the exercising, do some icing, add in more stretching, see a practitioner or do an activity that doesn’t put exertion on that area.
- If you are making dessert for company that is visiting, you don’t have to serve big pieces or an 1/8th of a pie. You can make the servings much smaller, so each person doesn’t feel compelled to eat more than they want or need.
- Notice if you are really enjoying the food you are eating and if it is really all that satisfying. If you aren’t satisfied or don’t really want any more of it, to throw it away – even if it is ice cream.
- Buy one meal and split it three-ways with the kids instead of a full meal and two kid meals.
- And last, but not least, sometimes you have to tell yourself to “Just Do It”. We all have times when we come up with excuses and resist doing something we know will feel good once we get started, and it helps to give yourself a strong nudge to just go do it anyway. When I first started exercising, that is exactly what worked for me. I would say to myself, “too bad, no discussion, just go it”, and that would be enough to get me in my sneakers and downstairs.
Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what else the group participants learned from talking through ways to create strategies from their challenges.
Have a fit and healthy week,
Cooking Demo from Local in home cooking
This week the groups got the chance to spend part of an evening with Katie Habib, owner of in home cooking (personal chef, interactive dinner parties, cooking lessons and party prep) right here in Newburyport at her home. Our interest was vegetables and easy, quick ways to prepare them. We wanted to know how she would whip up a side of yummy broccoli, green beans, asparagus or eggplant. When we arrived we were welcomed to her big kitchen and a tasting of crackers with a delicious caponata spread (an Italian eggplant, balsamic vinegar, olives and capers) and another simple spread made from carrots and sweet potato.
Within the hour we spent with Katie, we learned how easy it really can be to roast or sauté vegetables. She demonstrated roasting by cubing up an eggplant and a red onion, dropping them on a thick baking sheet and drizzling with a bit of oil, crushed garlic and bit of salt and pepper. She broiled them in less than 20 minutes and tossed with some feta cheese. You can broil (or bake) nearly any vegetable that way, and they come out with a wonderful flavor. She also sautéed broccoli florets in a bit of oil with garlic, salt, pepper and as it finished cooking added in some raisons and red pepper flakes. She did something similar with the green beans, finishing those instead with balsamic vinegar. We left inspired to add more vegetables into our meals.
Tim, who was the lucky winner of Katie’s services for his award in health improvement, will not be the only one signing up for her services, such as her weekly crock pot meals or in home cooking lessons. For more information about all Katie’s options, visit www.inhomecooking.net.
Developing Food Strategies from Hindsight
Back in our group sessions, we talked about those times during the week when it was challenging to maintain portion control or avoid eating less than healthy choices. Everyone has learned not to beat themselves up when that happens, and now they can use those experiences as learning opportunities.
It is amazing what you learn when you look back and see what might have worked better in different situations. For example, several people said that Easter didn’t go quite as planned, even though they were pleased they remained in greater control than ever before. For example, some found it easy to keep nibbling at food that remained on the table as everyone sat around. One easy way to avoid that is to put the food away, getting it out of everyone’s reach. Several talked about eating too much dessert because of the portions that get served, yet they were in control of the portion size. They realized that they automatically cut big pieces of pie or cake because that is just what they’ve always done, but they could just as easily do smaller slices.
Once you can identify specific strategies from past events, you can think about them proactively the next time the same type of event comes up. This is exactly what two of them did when they knew that Easter dinner would involve a buffet, since we had talked about dealing with buffets before. They both had a little healthy snack an hour or so before going, so they didn’t get to the buffet too hungry. One of them had already decided ahead of time that she would start with a salad, and both of them took a walk through to see what was on the buffet table before getting their plates. That enabled them to think about which things they really wanted most, and in what ways they could have them in a healthy balanced way. And then they left room for a bit of the desserts and again picked a couple of small things they thought looked best. Neither got full and both were perfectly satisfied. In fact they felt great about their choices and themselves.
Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what else the contestants learned from this topic, which they usually add the week after this post goes live. Please feel free to add your own comments as you follow along.
Have a fit and healthy week,
This week the topic was on subconscious eating and how to address those times when food seems to have all the power and you just can’t stop yourself from losing control. While everyone is feeling more in control with food choices and portions, they are still prone to over indulging and eating when they aren’t hungry from subconscious triggers. By knowing more about them and how to deal with them, they will be better prepared and more easily avoid getting triggered to eat out of control.
Your Behavior is the Tip of the Iceberg
It is so easy to judge your behaviors as good or bad, yet it is never that simple. When you over indulge, for example, the behavior may appear bad but that misrepresents what is going on. It is not a matter of being good or bad, but instead of understanding what drove you to have that behavior. Your behaviors stem from your subconscious thoughts, beliefs and feelings, most of which you aren’t even aware of. All you see is the behavior; not all that lies beneath it. To change your behavior, you need to expose what is driving it, and that is what I spent the session explaining how to do.
The Behavior Chain of Events:
Situation —Beliefs —Thoughts —Feelings —Behavior —Beliefs —Thoughts —Feelings —Behavior —
When something happens during your day, your thoughts about the situation are determined by your beliefs (most of which you absorbed from others you thought knew best as you grew up but may not necessarily be in your best interests) and these thoughts often create feelings about what is happening, whether you realize they are there or not. If you are like most people, the next thing you know after experiencing a trying situation is you are eating something you don’t really even want or losing control around foods you know you shouldn’t have. That then triggers beliefs about your eating behavior, which leads to negative thoughts and emotions, which drives you to eat even more.
For example; if you experience something that you believe is unfair, your thoughts reflect that and you begin to feel annoyed or upset. But seldom is there an opportunity to express those feelings, so you find yourself turning to food to avoid those feelings and to feel better. But you know that isn’t good and you shouldn’t do it, which leads to feeling even worse and continuing to eat out of greater frustration, shame and guilt. This is classic emotional eating, which I refer to as emotional repression since it works to keep you calm and your feelings under control – as in pushed out of consciousness. The problem is the emotions are still there, unresolved and ready to be triggered again.
As I shared with the groups, emotional eating is a term people use to cover many different aspects of subconsciously-driven eating behaviors, and it helps to separate eating driven by beliefs from those driven by emotions or to recognize when it is a combination of both.
Dealing with Beliefs Eating
If you overeat because you subconsciously believe you must finish everything on your plate, this would be a type of beliefs-driven eating behavior. There is no emotional component to it. Another example is eating food because you don’t want to throw it away or you want your money’s worth. Very often the beliefs you carry are those you got from other people or the media, and when you really stop to evaluate those beliefs will find they don’t serve you.
Does it really make sense to eat until you are sick to get your money’s worth or to skip meals to save your calories for dinner, which creates blood sugar lows and usually leads to night-time bingeing? Or does it make sense to overeat or eat food that makes you feel sick to take care of someone else’s feelings? Just because you perceive pressure to eat, doesn’t mean you have to eat or that the other person cares as much as you think.
You can change your beliefs once you identify the ones that don’t work for you. You can decide to create a new belief, like if you are done eating and can’t keep food as leftovers that throwing away food may be the best option.
Dealing with Emotional Eating
There are two primary types of eating that are driven by emotions. One is emotional repression, as I mentioned earlier. The other is when your emotions represent a reaction to having been or currently being deprived of food you want. This I call restrictive rebellion, where one part of you (the inner parent – holder of beliefs) enforces your dietary rules and the other part of you (the inner child – holder of emotions) rebels to get its unmet needs addressed. As most of us know, our emotions usually win one way or another, and often it is by going out of control with food.
The way to address these is to understand what it is you are feeling and what it is you need (to address those feelings) that don’t involve food. So if you are angry about something, determine what needs to be done to address what created that anger and allow yourself to acknowledge the anger, instead of repress it. And determine if there are additional emotions beneath the anger that need to also be addressed. The idea isn’t to dig up the past, but to identify what you feel and need now. In my book that goes along with this program, I go through the exact steps on how to do this.
Read What the Participants Have to Say
Learning about subconscious eating and specific examples of belief- and emotionally-driven eating was eye-opening to people in the groups. As several of them said, they now had greater insight about themselves and their relationship with food, and it all made more sense.
Find out what else the participants learned from this topic, which they usually add the week after this post goes live. Please feel free to add your own comments as you follow along.
To participate on your own or in a group (3 more groups starting soon), check out the contest website for details and tools at www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.
Have a fit and healthy week,
This week, I asked everyone to share a significant change in the way they were eating since starting the New You program, and to pick an area they had listed in their contest application as a major problem they wanted to solve. It was amazing to hear just how much had changed, and how easy it had been to make the changes.
A Change in Mindset
To date, they have been shown how to pay attention to their body’s hunger, satisfaction and fullness levels, the basics of nutrition, and how to balance all foods in moderation – as you’ve been reading in this blog. They have been encouraged to notice how different foods or beverages leave them feeling, and to stay conscious when they eat so they can remain in control. They have been discouraged from labeling any food as bad or criticizing themselves when they are challenged to pick healthy choices or in controlling portions.
They have not been put on a diet, been restricted in any way, or been told what to eat or not to eat. There has been no judgment about their choices, but instead a focus on feeling good physically and satisfied emotionally.
And the results within just six weeks are impressive, because no one feels pressured, forced or restricted. Instead they have changed their mindset and been given freedom to do what feels best and works best for them. With this approach, they have all easily, intuitively and naturally gravitated to healthier foods and beverages, low-glycemic balanced foods, smaller portions and more frequent meals. And they have done it by choice, not to win an award or to lose weight fast. Instead they have done it because it just feels and tastes so much better.
Here is a summary of what has changed during the past six weeks across the 4 groups participating in this New You 2010 program, including the contest group.
Portion Control is Now Easy
Nearly everyone struggled with portion control and wanted a way to manage how much they ate, particularly at night, when entering the program. When they first started paying attention to when they started to become full, many found it didn’t feel good and others discovered they had no idea really what fullness felt like.
Now, everyone has easily shifted to eating when they get hungry and stopping before they get full, with perhaps a couple of exceptions during the week, and even then they almost never overeat by that much.
As several people said this week, they just don’t want to eat beyond the point they are satisfied and it has become easy to simply stop. They have found, whether they journal or not, that they are remaining conscious of their hunger and fullness levels when they eat, which is changing their behavior naturally. Others pointed out that by getting enough to eat during the day and not getting too ravenous before dinner, they are more in control and don’t overeat at night. Some noted they are easily taking food home when they go out to eat, which is something they never used to do.
Choosing Healthier Foods is More Satisfying
When most of them filled out their applications, they wrote about the struggle to make healthy choices and many of them shared they weren’t sure if they had or even knew how to eat healthy meals. So many of them had dieted, and sadly diets are seldom healthy.
Now they are gaining confidence that they know what is healthy and are making healthy meals and snacks. They have been experimenting with the foods they already eat, and finding ways to make them more nutritionally balanced with other foods or by finding healthier alternatives (such as whole grain vs refined flour pasta). They haven’t had to change the way they eat drastically. Instead they have made minor modifications and begun experimenting with new recipes. As importantly, they are combining foods in a way they find most satisfying, so they don’t feel like they are being restricted or being put on a diet.
Many of them shared how much they were enjoying their healthier choices and how much better they felt physically and mentally. They are discovering how to balance foods that give them more energy, last a few hours, and taste so much better than what they used to eat. In the process, quite a few of them are getting excited about cooking, trying new recipes and checking labels to make healthier purchases. Some are figuring out better ways to plan their grocery shopping and prepare foods more effectively.
And, many of them are finding they want more fruits and vegetables, so we talked a bit about ways to more easily and quickly prepare vegetables. We will also have Katie Habib, our personal chef sponsor from In Home Cooking, do a class for us on ways to plan and prepare vegetables in April or May.
Excessive Overeating and Bingeing Seldom Happens Now
As I explained to the groups early on, there is always a good reason for overeating and bingeing. The trick is to uncover the subconscious trigger driving you to eat when you aren’t hungry or are already starting to get full. The first step in doing that is to simply observe with curiosity when you overeat and not judge it.
Very often the cause is an internal battle between beliefs you are carrying about food (such as food you shouldn’t have) and emotions caused by unmet needs (such as foods you love and have been deprived of). The drive to overeat and binge can also come from beliefs about wasting food, eating everything on your plate and deserving a reward. It can also be the result of using food to repress emotions and using food to cope with what is going on in your life.
Nearly everyone had been doing excessive overeating to one degree or another, and now it is very rare. They are seeing what is triggering them and they are either changing their beliefs, acknowledging their needs and finding ways to get those needs met, or they are coming up with strategies to avoid getting triggered in the first place. Several shared how amazing it was to them that they no longer graze after dinner or have any desire to eat foods in large quantities. They might have a little something at night, but just a bit, and very often they are happier having it with dinner as part of their balanced meal. As one person put it, there just isn’t “any desire anymore to overindulge”. Others pointed out that because they no longer feel restricted or deprived and instead have permission to eat what they want in a structured way, they are perfectly satisfied and don’t go looking for more food.
Beverage Choices Naturally Healthier
A number of people had been drinking a lot of soda or alcohol, which we haven’t talked much about in the groups. For a few it was a big issue, and they have specifically worked to uncover what is driving them to drink so much and to come up with strategies to reduce their quantities. And that has worked really well. For the others, they simply found they didn’t want as much of it and started drinking more water or seltzer water instead. For them, the change just naturally happened because it made them feel better. And for another, what naturally occurred was a greater desire for a higher quality drink than for quantity.
Addictions and Cravings Seem to Have Disappeared
For those who felt they had carb or sugar addictions when they filled out their applications, none felt they had these now. The cravings have disappeared, and many believed it was because of their balanced food choices and their ability to enjoy a little of whatever it is they love as a part of their meals or snacks.
If they want a cookie, they can have one. If they want chocolate, they can fully enjoy it. And since they are no longer deprived or beating themselves up for slipping, blowing it or being bad, these once forbidden foods don’t hold power over them. Instead, they are eating to be satisfied instead of indulging to make up for what they can’t have or didn’t get to have in the past.
What is also making a big difference for a number of them is breakfast. In the past, they were eating primarily carbohydrates and mainly simple carbohydrates (such as a breakfast of cereal, milk, fruit and fruit juice), which was fueling carb cravings the rest of the day. Now, by balancing their breakfast with more complex carbohydrates, protein and fat, they aren’t spiking their blood sugars first thing in the morning, and the desire for carbs has dropped off.
The Changes Don’t Feel Like a Sacrifice
As one gal put it, “it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice” to make healthy changes this way, and that is why they are all being so successful. Simply by having awareness when eating, a simplified understanding of nutrition and the freedom to make choices that feel best, they are willingly and intuitively making positive changes they will easily maintain long-term. They don’t have to rely on willpower to do as they should, because there are no rules and restrictions – just common sense that feels good.
Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what the participants have to say about their changes with food, which they usually add the Monday after this post goes live. Please feel free to add your own comments as you follow along.
To participate on your own or in a group, check out the contest website for details and tools at www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.
Have a fit and healthy week,
Rudy, Danny, Liz and Amada are the final four contestants, and their last challenge was going home for 60 days and preparing to run a 26 mile marathon. One of them will be voted off this coming week.
What they realized in going home was how much they had changed – and not just physically. At home they came face to face with some of the issues that led to their obesity in the first place. While at the ranch, they focused on physical changes and discovering how much they had let themselves go. Back home, they were seeing that it isn’t just the physical that has to change in order to really succeed. They have to address the underlying subconscious mental and emotional issues that drove their unhealthy behaviors and overeating in the first place.
While this episode was going on, a former Biggest Loser winner, Ryan Benson, failed to return to the reunion show held last week. He had regained most of his weight back and admitted to extreme fasting and dehydration during the show in order to win. And just a couple of weeks earlier, Daniel Wright, who has done the show twice, went home. Daniel now admits he struggles with binge eating and kept that hidden during the show. Most likely it was even worse when he got home, having been severely deprived for the past 10 weeks. Overeating or bingeing after extreme dieting and deprivation is normal, and no doubt many other contestants have found themselves over-indulging once back home. This may explain why half of the Biggest Loser contestants have regained most or all of their weight loss.
Programs, like the Biggest Loser, are failing to address the underlying drivers of obesity that each of their contestants will deal with after the program ends. This is a disservice to those who put their trust in the trainers and dieticians, as well as to those watching the programs. It simply isn’t a matter of extreme diet, exercise and weight loss to be a success and maintain weight loss. If it were, obesity would have been solved long ago.
What drives our behavior are subconscious thoughts, beliefs and feelings, and when it comes to food and exercise these are complicated and unique to each person. Binge eating, for example, can be driven by a subconscious rebellion against food restrictions, an unmet need that is soothed by food, a means of keeping unresolved emotions repressed, or a reaction to not getting enough food and being compelled to make up for that deprivation. The triggers for dysfunctional eating can come from nearly anything, and without understanding how to be aware of them, how to resolve them and strategies to limit them, they will continue.
Rudy, Danny, Liz and Amanda all hope to go home the next Biggest Loser winner, yet they also share a concern about their ability to maintain their weight loss when the show ends. They have every reason to be concerned, because they haven’t been given the tools and experiences they really need to change their relationship with food and fitness from the inside out.
This morning I had breakfast with a friend at a local diner, and she couldn’t help but notice a group of people who were overweight and eating huge piles of pancakes and waffles dripping in butter, syrup and whipped cream. She wondered what was wrong with them and criticized them for their choices.
It is so easy to judge people who are obese for not taking responsibility for their weight problem, but until you’ve walked in their shoes you have no idea what the real problem is. It might appear obvious if you see them eating huge portions of food or eating things that aren’t healthy, but these behaviors are a symptom of a greater problem that is not well understood or obvious.
The problem starts with dieting, and most likely everyone who is obese has dieted at least once if not repeatedly. Restrictive diets all have two things in common: they are short term and they limit what you can eat. Once the diet ends, whether as planned or because it was too hard to stick with, there is an insatiable desire to eat what wasn’t allowed and to overeat. This reaction is both physical, because the body has been in starvation mode and works to restore its fuel supply, and it is psychological. When you’ve been deprived, you have an emotional need to make up for that deprivation.
These aren’t conscious, even if you know you just can’t stop eating foods you know you shouldn’t have. They are subconscious drivers of behavior that lead to food obsessions, cravings and bingeing. In 35% of the cases, they become eating disorders.
In addition, most people are stressed out, working long hours, juggling many responsibilities and putting themselves last. This isn’t an excuse, but a reality.
Instead of judging people for their poor eating choices and lack of activity or unhealthy lifestyle, the answer starts with empathy for their situation.
The next step is to help them take a look at these choices and come to understand what is driving them from an objective perspective. It is nearly impossible to take a closer look when they are self-critical and self-loathing. In fact, that is what leads to denial, because it is often too painful to deal with those feelings. Instead, by being curious of their behaviors without judgment, then they can see what is sabotaging their choices and can start to address their subconscious thoughts and emotions. In doing so, they can regain control, be in touch with how they feel, and discover an easier way to create and maintain healthier decisions for the long term.